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Australia, New Zealand: Shares tiptoe higher on trade optimism

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Australian shares inched higher on Tuesday on expectations that the United States and China would strike a trade agreement soon, however, caution prevailed as weary investors await concrete details on the deal.

[BENALURU] Australian shares inched higher on Tuesday on expectations that the United States and China would strike a trade agreement soon, however, caution prevailed as weary investors await concrete details on the deal.

The S&P 500 hit a record high and the Nasdaq fell just short of a lifetime high on Monday after US President Donald Trump said he expected to sign a significant part of a trade deal with China ahead of schedule, but did not specify an exact date.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.2 per cent or 13 points at 6,753.70, as of 0023 GMT. The index was set for a seven-day winning streak, having closed marginally higher on Monday.

"In recent days, the market has been starting off well and then fading in the second half of the session - it's a sign that there's not a huge amount of enthusiasm," said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at Commsec.

Markets remained cautious and vulnerable to a drop, particularly as the index moves closer to record highs pinned on expectations of a trade deal, he said.

"Even if there is good news saying the trade talks are going better than expected, it doesn't mean much until it is put in writing."

Mining stocks largely supported the index, with global miner BHP Group adding 1.3 per cent and rival Rio Tinto rising 1.4 per cent. The smaller Fortescue Metals Group rose 1.1 per cent.

Among technology stocks, Bravura Solutions Ltd was the best performer, adding as much as 9.2 per cent after saying it would buy of domestic software maker FinoComp in an earnings-accretive deal.

Healthcare stocks also rose, with sector heavyweight CSL inching to a record high, while Cochlear  put on 1.3 per cent.

However, financials posted a subdued performance, with all of the "Big Four" banks inching lower.

Energy stocks also dropped, with Origin Energy down 1.1 per cent, while sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum shed 0.6 per cent.

Bega Cheese was the biggest loser on the benchmark, slipping 17 per cent to a six-year low. The dairy goods maker flagged weaker earnings in fiscal 2020, citing increased competition brought about by reduced supply amid a prolonged drought.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 37.41 points to 10,826.05.

Dairy giant a2 Milk Company added 1.6 per cent, while electricity generator Genesis Energy gained 2.3 per cent.

REUTERS

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